As anglers we spend a lot of time in, and on, the water. That may include fishing from a small boat or wading in lakes and rivers where water depth and currents can be uncertain. As a result we need to be extra careful when participating in our sport.
This past week, July 20-26, was National Drowning Prevention Week in Canada and it reminded me that we all need to make sure we do everything we can to be safe. As anglers our sport puts us in, and on, the water, from spring to fall, and even in the winter, often when weather conditions arenâ€™t very good. The statistics show that more than 500 people die in Canada every year in water-related incidents.
Every year people lose their lives because of drowning. In many cases these tragedies could have been prevented. The Lifesaving Society organizes National Drowning Prevention Week across the country and they have several suggestions we should all follow:
â€“ Make sure everyone in the family can achieve the Swim to Survive standard which includes the ability to surface after falling in deep water, tread water for one minute and swim 50 yards
â€“ Take a lifesaving course and learn how to reduce the risk of drowning
â€“ Teach children to swim and be comfortable around water
â€“ Always wear a life-jacket or personal flotation device when boating
â€“ Do not consume alcohol while swimming or operating a boat
â€“ Keep children within armâ€™s reach when near water and, whenever possible, swim in an area supervised by a lifeguard
As an angler I attempt to be safe when I am fishing. This can be as simple as making sure I wear a life-jacket or personal flotation device when I am on the water. A few years ago I bought one of the newer-style PFDs which looks like a pair of braces and includes a gas cylinder which inflates when you pull a cord. You hardly know you are wearing it so it doesnâ€™t interfere with your movement.
When you look at the statistics for Canadian drowning victims there is a chilling similarity that shows up. More than 80 per cent are men and, of the victims, 90 per cent were not wearing a life-jacket.
Wading is another area where water safety is critical for anglers. Moving water has tremendous power and, in the spring or fall, the water is cold so hypothermia can be an issue. Make sure you wear a wading belt which helps prevent water entering your waders if you take a spill and include a wading staff. There is a reason photographers use a tripod as three legs are more stable than two so using a wading staff will help you wade in deeper water or high current.
But, the most important skill to have is common sense and donâ€™t place yourself in a situation where the water is too deep, or too fast. Stay on the shore and be safe, so you can fish another day.
Don MacLean is an outdoor writer and biologist who lives in Pictou County.